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BYD eyes move into Brazil

By CHEN JIA in San Francisco | China Daily Latin America | Updated: 2014-01-27 06:03

Chinese automaker BYD is gearing up to expand its overseas investment across the Pacific Ocean this year, using the United States as a springboard to become involved in the Brazilian auto industry.

Stella Li, BYD senior vice-president, said the investment in Brazil could reach $100 million, and will be used to establish an electric bus plant 80 miles from Sao Paulo City.

If realized, the initiative will be BYD’s largest overseas investment, and US investor Warren Buffett is the company’s minority stakeholder, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal.

Five years ago, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway purchased 9.9 percent of the Chinese car giant.

Dubbed one of the hottest auto markets in the world, Brazil has attracted many international carmakers, such as Germany’s Volkswagen and Italy’s Fiat. Both enjoy better sales records in Brazil than in their home markets.

Reports said BYD’s plant in Brazil will be capable of producing as many as 4,000 electric buses a year. The buses will be sold throughout Latin America.

Li said negotiations with potential customers in South America and about purchasing the required land have not been finalized, so she would not reveal any more details until later this year.

In November 2013, BYD opened a plant in Lancaster, in southern California, where it has about 40 local employees. In its initial phase, the investment was close to $30 million, the company said.

In both cases, the Chinese company explored the new markets carefully, examining various rules and processes step by step.

In California last year, an unexpected public relations crisis hit BYD.

The company was criticized for the low wages it paid some technical experts from the parent company in China who were visiting California to train its US workforce.

The problem was complicated by misinformation spread by Madeline Janis’ advocacy group, LAANE, BYD said in a statement.

"We have just received customer approval to start manufacturing our green-technology buses, and look forward to hiring more Californian workers for those jobs. BYD is also dedicated to properly paying its employees under California’s wage and hour laws," it said.

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